Thermal noise limit on the sensitivity of cellular membranes to power frequency electric and magnetic fields

Bioelectromagnetics. 2002 Dec;23(8):622-8. doi: 10.1002/bem.10060.


Several authors have concluded that thermal electromagnetic noise will be of sufficient magnitude to overwhelm electric and/or magnetic fields induced by environmentally generated, power frequency electric and magnetic fields in the membranes of living cells located in the bodies of humans. Yet, there are research reports that indicate that living cells may respond to power frequency electric and/or magnetic field levels well below the limits set by these thermal noise arguments. The purpose of this study is to suggest that published thermal arguments may not make a full accounting of all membrane force fields of thermal origin, and that when such an accounting is made, the net thermal noise fields may be smaller in the power frequency range than previously thought. If this analysis is correct, there may be no thermal noise barrier that precludes the possibility of cellular membranes of human cells responding to environmental levels of power frequency electric or magnetic fields.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / radiation effects*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electricity
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Biological*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stochastic Processes